Friday, March 31, 2006

SBL Pauline Epistles Paper

I made two proposals to the SBL Annual Meeting to be held in Washington, DC in November this year. The first, for the Bible in Ancient and Modern Media section, was entitled "How The Passion of the Christ Reads the Scholars: Cliché and Misrepresentation in Reactions to Gibson's Film", but I had news that this was rejected several weeks ago. I was therefore delighted to hear today that my proposal for the Pauline Epistles section has been accepted. Here is the proposal:

Already Circumcised: Paul’s Letter of Rebuke to Apostate Galatians

Thesis to be argued: The epistle to the Galatians is best understood on the assumption that Paul thinks, at the time of writing, that a substantial number of the Galatians have already been circumcised. Paul is writing to rebuke converts whom he sees as apostate.

Outline of the argument: It is commonly assumed that the epistle to the Galatians is addressed to Gentile Christians who have not been circumcised, and that Paul is attempting to dissuade them from what he sees as a disastrous course of action. But the letter's substance and rhetoric are better explained on the assumption that Paul is addressing churches in which the process of circumcision is already underway. This scenario is preferable to the standard view for several reasons: (1) 6.12 speaks of the agitators compelling the Galatians to be circumcised. ἀναγκάζω is here used of successful and not attempted compulsion, as elsewhere in Greek literature, including Gal. 2.14. (2) The conditional sentence in 5.2 is misread when it is used to imply a process not yet underway. (3) The tense of Paul’s statements in 5.4 should be taken seriously “You have been severed from Christ . . . you have fallen from grace” (cf. 5.7). (4) Paul's language of astonishment (1.6), foolishness (3.1) and spells (3.1) tells the same story of successful coercion. (5) The Galatians are already keeping special days (4.10), which gives no hint that they would hold off on circumcision. (6) Paul’s picture of the agitators depicts them with knife in hand (5.12); they are practising circumcision as well as teaching it. (7) Nothing short of a new birth can turn this drastic situation around (4.19).

Relationship to previous or current research on the topic: (1) This proposal coheres with scholarship that sees Galatians as a letter of ironic rebuke (Dahl, Nanos). (2) On rare occasions, scholars have hinted at the possibility that circumcision was already underway in Galatia (Lightfoot, Martyn, Stanton), but this has never been subject to a full exposition, and the vast majority assume that this was not the case. (3) This proposal coheres with, but is not dependent on, the view that Paul lost the battle in Galatia, and that it was written after 1 Corinthians (see 16.1) but before 2 Corinthians (see 9.1-4).

Stephen Carlson has links to other bibliobloggers presenting papers at the SBL, including himself, on Hypotyposeis. As well as Stephen, Rick Brannan, Adam Kotsko, Michael Bird and Jim Davila are on the bill. Any more?

Update (3 April 2006): how could I have forgotten Sean the Baptist, whom I have known longer than any of the rest of them? In comments, Peter Head notes that a couple of the Evangelical Textual Critics are also giving papers at the SBL, as revealed deep in the comments section of an Westcott and Hort as Manuscript Scholars. Loren Rosson has a great summary in the latest Biblical Studies Carnival.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Gospel of Judas availability

On Xtalk, James Spinti notes that he has "just received word that the official availability date for the "Gospel of Judas" is 4/6/2006 [that's 6 April, not 4 June]. Eisenbrauns will be carrying it, along with the companion volume, "The Lost Gospel: The Quest for the Gospel of Judas Iscariot." They changed the date to align with the TV special.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Death of Daryl Schmidt

I was very sorry to read in Jim West's blog of the death of Daryl Schmidt on 21 March. The announcement also appears on the Westar Institute website, with an obituary here:

Westar mourns loss of Fellow, Daryl Schmidt

And it adds a link to his "Odyssey" from The Fourth R in 1995:

Fundamentally Pluralistic

I met Daryl once and greatly enjoyed his company. We appeared together on the Radio 4 programme Beyond Belief on the resurrection, which also featured a short interview with Michael Goulder. It's still available on-line to listen to -- go to 25 March 2002 and hit "Go".

Beyond Belief on Judas

Next Monday's Beyond Belief is advertising a programme on Judas:

Monday 27 March 2006
Not many babies are called Judas these days – and to be labelled such is considered by many to be a serious insult, suggesting unreliability and untrustworthiness.

But was the original Judas really as black as he's painted? Was he really a traitor or simply misunderstood? So, Judas: victim or villain?
I don't know who is on the programme yet. I haven't done a Beyond Belief myself for some time now. It's on Radio 4 on at 16.30 BST, and is always available for ages on "Listen Again" streaming afterwards.

NTGateway Blog Cloud

Following Ben Myers, Joe Cathey, Jim West and others, here is my Blog Cloud.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

More of Alan Bandy's Interviews

The fine series of interviews on fellow North Carolinian Alan Bandy's blog Cafe Apocalypsis takes a serious dip in quality with the following:

Mark Goodacre on Faith-based Scholarship

But then it quickly recovers itself with:

Peter Williams on Faith-based Scholarship

Thanks, Alan, for the fine work here, even if those of us outside the evangelical camp are beginning to look a little outnumbered.

PS: Many thanks for all the links to the interview with me. Goodness, anyone would think it was my birthday.

Update (22.57): On the remark above, note that Alan says now that "a number of other non-evangelical scholars but they have not yet responded or have declined". Typical! You might add to my comments that one of the great advantages of the evangelicals is that they foreground the importance of sharing their views with the public at large; that's something to be learned by us all!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Lecturer in New Testament Studies, Sheffield

A post has been advertised in New Testament at the University of Sheffield in the Department of Biblical Studies. Full details here:

Lecturer in New Testament Studies

University of Sheffield

"Faith and scholarship" blog thread

Over on Deinde, Danny Zacharias is doing a great job of tracking all the relevant blog posts on the current thread on "faith and scholarship", which all began with an article in the SBL Forum article by Michael Fox, but has continued with multiple blog postings, including some interesting interviews on Cafe Apocalypsis, mainly with evangelical scholars (Blomberg, McKnight, Evans and Bock) but also with James Crossley. I wonder who else Alan has lined up? Anyway, here's Danny's summary post, which he updates regularly:

Deinde: Bloggercooler: Faith and Scholarship

Monday, March 20, 2006

Review of Biblical Literature Latest

Latest from the SBL Review of Biblical Literature under the New Testament heading:

Arterbury, Andrew
Entertaining Angels: Early Christian Hospitality in Its Mediterranean Setting
Reviewed by Craig Blomberg

Coutsoumpos, Panayotis
Paul and the Lord's Supper: A Socio-Historical Investigation
Reviewed by George Heyman

Hull, Michael F.
Baptism on Account of the Dead (1 Cor 15:29): An Act of Faith in the Resurrection
Reviewed by David Garland

Hull, Michael F.
Baptism on Account of the Dead (1 Cor 15:29): An Act of Faith in the Resurrection
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

Murphy, Frederick J.
An Introduction to Jesus and the Gospels
Reviewed by Joel Green

Murphy, Frederick J.
An Introduction to Jesus and the Gospels
Reviewed by Sean Kealy

Also on-line today is Michael Pahl's review of Delbert Burkett's Rethinking the Gospel Sources, reproduced from the JETS (see Stuff of Earth):

Review of Rethinking the Gospel Sources

Michael's review is clear and very helpful. I've read the book twice, parts of it several times, and am writing a review of it for JTS.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Gospel of Judas on Sunday

The lead feature on this morning's Sunday programme on Radio 4 was on the Gospel of Judas. Simon Gathercole, Senior Lecturer in New Testament at the University of Aberdeen, was interviewed by Roger Bolton. You can listen here:


The interview with Simon runs from about 9:10 to 13:30.

I can claim a little influence here. I had a long phone-call with the producer about the Gospel on Friday morning, expressed a little reluctance about the thought of driving in to Durham on a Saturday to do an interview, and recommended Simon, who did an excellent job, especially in explaining that the Gospel cannot tell us anything of interest about the historical Jesus and the historical Judas, which is always, of course, the angle the media are inclined to explore. Simon explained that the Gospel was written long after the living memory of the apostles, and that it featured anachronisms equivalent to our writing a document about Queen Victoria in which she comments on The Lord of the Rings and on her CD collection.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Magdalene Review various

Lesa Bellevie's Magdalene Review is always well worth a read and I enjoyed the reflections today on the issue of the women's witness at the resurrection of Jesus (Women, the resurrection and disbelief). There are also some interesting reflections on Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar and The Gospel Road in Mary Magadelene, circa 1973. I have not seen The Gospel Road but would love to, at some point, since I've been a Johnny Cash fan since I saw him on the Columbo episode Swan Song, also made in 1973, as it happens. Another oddity from the same year is Godspell (dir. David Greene) in which there is no Mary Magdalene at all.

But to get to the reason I wanted to mention The Magdalene Review, in a post on Cecil B. DeMille's The King of Kings, Lesa writes:
The bright spot of this film for me, as expected, was the scene in which Jesus healed Mary Magdalene of her demons. To my knowledge, this is the only feature film that has depicted this scene. * If anyone knows of another, I’d love to hear about it!
Well, I can think of one: The Miracle Maker, claymated, and voiced by Julie Christie. For the scene depicting the seven demons, the film goes into two-dimensional animation and you actually see the seven demons.

Review of Biblical Literature latest

Latest from the SBL Review of Biblical Literature under the NT heading:

Dettwiler, Andreas, Jean-Daniel Kaestli, and Daniel Marguerat, eds.
Paul, une théologie en construction
Reviewed by Matthew Mitchell

Gelardini, Gabriella, ed.
Hebrews: Contemporary Methods-New Insights
Reviewed by C. Patrick Gray

Hays, Richard B.
The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel's Scripture
Reviewed by Maarten Menken

Hays, Richard B.
The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel's Scripture
Reviewed by Stephen Moyise

Neyrey, Jerome H.
Render to God: New Testament Understandings of the Divine
Reviewed by John Bertone

Around the biblioblogs

Brandon Wason and Jim West continue their good job of interviewing the bibliobloggers over on, and in March it is the turn of Christopher Heard of Higgaion. As always, it's an interesting interview. I've been a fan of Christopher's since he first launched iTanakh, which I have always thought of as a good OT companion to the NT Gateway.

Meanwhile, Loren Rosson has the call up for the next Biblical Studies Carnival, on The Busybody.

Bart Ehrman on The Daily Show

I heard about this but forgot to mention it; Jim West notes on Xtalk and Biblical Studies that Bart Ehrman appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central last night and that you should be able to catch repeats during the day today. And those in the UK: you can get The Daily Show on More 4, but you already knew that, right?

Update (15 March, 21.06): caught the 8 pm repeat. It was good stuff, ten minutes or so, Bart Ehrman looking smart in a grey suit and a purple-ish tie, in good humour, pretty relaxed. Jon Stewart clearly loved the book and sang its praises at the end of the interview and held it up to camera. Stewart asked at one stage which the authentic version of the Bible was; was it the one in the hotel rooms? He also asked why God revealed the Bible in Greek, to which Ehrman replied (to the effect of) to keep the Greek professors in jobs. There was some talk about the Woman Taken in Adultery, and Stewart asked whether this got added in order to sex up the New Testament a bit. But Stewart also asked a really interesting and perceptive question, pointing out that he thought that what Ehrman was describing was in fact a kind of living, organic text, and that there was a dynamism there that showed it was not the static text assumed by some literalists. It got to the heart of where I think many Christians would disagree with Ehrman. For Ehrman, the discovery of the texts and textual tradition of the New Testament was something that ultimately undermined rather than enhanced his faith; for others of us, that has not been our experience. Overall, I was delighted to see a top NT Scholar talking about serious stuff in a popular show. All strength to his elbow.

So is Ehrman now more popular than Crossan? I think so. In fact, dare we say that he is now even more popular than Pagels?

Update (21.07): Joe Weaks comments on the Macintosh Biblioblog.

Update (Thursday, 00.56): Viola comments on The Americanization of Emily.

Update (Thursday, 08.40): David Ritsema notes, on Xtalk, that the video is now available on-line. Go to The Daily Shows Videos -- Most Recent and click on Bart Ehrman.

Gospel of Judas Book Details

On Xtalk James Spinti has the bibliographical details for the new books on the Gospel of Judas:

The titles and bibliographic information on the Nat'l Geographic "Judas"
volumes was released on Monday PM. Here's the skinny:

The Gospel of Judas
by National Geographic
National Geographic Society, Forthcoming April 2006
352 pages, English, Cloth
ISBN: 1426200420
List Price: $22.00
Eisenbrauns' Price: $16.50

And of course the companion volume:

The Lost Gospel: The Quest for the Gospel of Judas Iscariot
by National Geographic
National Geographic Society, Forthcoming April 2006
192 pages, English, Cloth
ISBN: 1426200412
List Price: $27.00
Eisenbrauns' Price: $20.25

Unfortunately there are no cover graphics yet, but I heard (unofficially) that it might be released a bit before the April 24th date.

The Book of Bart

No doubt other bloggers have noticed this; I spotted it on fellow NC NT blogger blog Dave Black on-line. But it's worth mentioning, a careful and at the same time entertaining article in the Washington Post about Bart Ehrman:

The Book of Bart
In the Bestseller 'Misquoting Jesus,' Agnostic Author Bart Ehrman Picks Apart the Gospels That Made a Disbeliever Out of Him
By Neely Tucker

The reporter has clearly spent some time with Bart, and has not just done an interview over the phone. He reports from the classroom, the bar, the BMW convertible and home:
Ehrman's desk is filled with open books. His study is sun-filled, with a glass door giving onto a patio and the gentle pines of the Carolina forests.

Where does faith reside? Does it leave a residue when it is gone?

Bart Ehrman begins writing, the day unfolding, shafts of light falling through the window, the mysteries of the Gospels open before him.
Perhaps those gentle Carolina pines and the sounds of the wildlife in the woods a few feet from where I am sitting now will encourage my writing and research too.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Fifth Greek Study Day for Teachers of Greek

This notice is from Jane McLarty:
Helping Students over the Hurdles in Reading the New Testament in Greek
Fifth study day for teachers of Greek

Thursday 11th May 2006
10.30 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.
Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge

Sessions will include: modern language/TEFL teaching methods – can they help with teaching Koine?; textual criticism for beginners; feedback on using Jeremy Duff’s Elements of NT Greek (the new Wenham).

This will be a practical day with presentations and discussions aimed both at those teaching beginners and also those teaching intermediate students. It is the fifth such day, and the previous days have been highly valued by participants.

Cost: £20, including lunch and morning and afternoon tea and coffee. For further information and a booking form, please contact:

Jane McLarty (Admissions Tutor, Lucy Cavendish College, Lady Margaret Road, Cambridge CB3 0BU; tel: 01223 332197; fax 01223 332178; email:

With thanks for the support of the Subject Centre for Philosophical and Religious Studies.
If I may add a personal note, I am sorry to be missing this day. I have very much enjoyed the previous Greek Study Days, the last three of which have been hosted at the University of Birmingham. But I am delighted to see that these are continuing and I would strongly encourage teachers of Greek to get to this day if you can -- it will be stimulating, interesting, educational and fun! For details of previous days, see the link here: Greek Study Days.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

How to cope without British TV and Radio II @ The Americanization of Emily

No fresh blog posts here today, but I have a non-NT guest blog on The Americanization of Emily, a follow-up to my earlier post there, How to Cope without British TV and Radio, called How to cope without British TV and Radio II, focusing on free on-line video availability from the BBC on News and Politics.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

More on Jesus' House

I posted recently on the topic, Did Jesus have a house in Capernaum? and I am grateful for a bunch of comments, emails and links to the post. Here is a bibliographical update:

John Painter, "When is a house not home?: Disciples and Family in Mark 3.13-35", NTS 45 (1999): 498-513:
Though not supported by modern translations, a better case for identifying a house as Jesus’ home is found in Mark 2.15. Studies note that ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ αὐτοῦ is ambiguous. The αὐτοῦ might refer to Levi or to Jesus. Elizabeth Struthers Malbon argues that because Levi followed Jesus (2.14), he cannot have followed Jesus to Levi’s house. Rather Mark depicts Jesus as the host of ameal in his own home in Capernaum. But, in 2.14, ‘following’ is a metaphor for discipleship. A ‘follower’ in this sense may still offer hospitality to Jesus.

The flow of the narrative from 2.14 to 2.15 favours the identification of the house as Levi’s. In 2.14 Levi is the subject (active agent), following Jesus. No change of subject is indicated at the opening of 2.15. Thus it is Levi reclining at dinner ‘in his house’. Only when this has been said does Mark, in the same sentence, name Jesus, saying ‘many tax collectors and sinners reclined with Jesus and his disciples’. Luke certainly understands the meal to be in Levi’s house (Luke 5.29). There is no reason to think he intentionally changed Mark’s meaning. Rather Luke is a guide to the way an early reader understood Mark. (499-500)
Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, ‘TH OIKIA AUTOU: Mark 2.15 in Context’, NTS 31 (1985): 282–3.
This is the article referenced by Painter above, and thanks to Sharyn Dowd for mentioning this to me in an email.
David M. May, "Mark 2.15: The Home of Jesus or Levi?", NTS 39 (1993): 147-149
David mentioned this in a comment to the original post, for which many thanks. His conclusion, "based on social-science criticism (specifically reciprocity) was that 'the cultural setting of the first-century world supports the position that the home in which Jesus dined and was condemned by the scribes of the Pharisees was not his home but Levi's.'"
Update (Monday, 08:36): Jamie Houghton emails: "I remember coming across this in my first year of Greek and was wondering what was going on? But then I found David Garland's commentary on Mark (see p104) and he stated "The 'house' in Mark is connected to Jesus." At least I wasn't the only one who thought so!"

Friday, March 10, 2006

Jesus, Torah, Sanders, Hengel and Deines

Over on Euangelion, Michael Bird has a post headed Jesus and Torah: I featuring a quotation from Martin Hengel and Roland Deines, ‘E.P. Sanders’ “Common Judaism”, Jesus, and the Pharisees’, JTS 46 (1995): 1-70 (15-16). It is not an article that Sanders himself was keen on:
Bill Farmer had urged me to read Josephus’ Jewish War while I was at Perkins (1959-62), and I had complied. What he saw in it, however, was (1) that lots of Jews were zealous for the law, which led to the view (2) that the Pharisees controlled Judaism and made people zealous, which was bad because (3) zeal for the law is the same as legalism, which is horrible. I eventually learned that none of this was true, but this experience made me miss most of the actual treasures in Josephus. Farmer’s views of Judaism were taken entirely from Joachim Jeremias. Approximately this same view of Josephus and Pharisaic control has now been argued by Martin Hengel and Roland Deines, “E.P. Sanders’ ‘Common Judaism,’ Jesus, and the Pharisees,” JTS n.s. 46, 1995, 1-70. The view is no better now than it was then. (E. P. Sanders, "Comparing Judaism and Christianity: An Academic Autobiography", April-May 2004: 36, n. 51).
One or two thoughts on the paragraph quoted by Michael:
Both Jesus and the Church fall outside the framework provided by the idea – valued so highly by Sanders – of a harmonious ‘common Judaism’.
The term "harmonious" added before 'common Judaism' illustrates one of the difficulties with Hengel and Deines's reading of Sanders. The point of Sanders' "common Judaism" is to find elements common to the majority of Jews in the Second Temple Judaism, not to imply that the Jews living then, or their views overall, were harmonious. That's why Sanders also uses terms like "common denominator Judaism". It is a simple point, but absolutely key if one is to interpret Sanders's views correctly.
After all, it is no accident that the movement initiated by Jesus opened itself step by step to an increasingly ‘law-free’ Gentile mission just a short time after his death. Nor is it an accident that the three ‘pillars’ at the Apostolic Council about eighteen years later, who were closely associated with Jesus, acknowledge uncircumcised Gentile Christians who were not under obligations to the Torah as full members of the Church, destined to experience eschatological salvation.
I have some trouble with this perspective. What is the evidence for a "step by step" movement "to an increasingly 'law-free' Gentile mission"? If anything, the evidence suggests the opposite -- Paul's Gentile converts are not compelled to be circumcised, and Gentiles eat food in fellowship with Jews in Antioch. But then some groups, the people from James in Antioch, the agitators in Galatia, push for some observance of works of the law among Gentile Christians. The natural assumption is that this kind of "Judaizing" (as Paul calls it) was an innovation and was not part of the earliest scene. As Paula Fredriksen points out in an article that should be compulsory reading for all NT students, Judaism, the Circumcision of Gentiles, and Apocalyptic Hope: Another Look at Galatians 1 and 2, JTS 42 (1991): 532-64, the early Christian inclusion of Gentiles into the people of God coheres with apocalyptic hope of the period, and it is a mistake to confuse inclusion with conversion. The key in the quotation above is "destined to experience eschatological salvation". The (male) Gentile who thinks himself to be included in the people of God, now that the Messiah has come, indeed experiences the hope of eschatological salvation, and does not contemplate circumcision. This is the earliest phase of the Jesus movement; it is later that people began to take the unprecedented step of suggesting circumcision and law-observance for Gentiles, and it is that new crisis -- in the 50s -- that Paul first meets in Antioch, and shortly afterwards finds himself reacting to in Galatians.

Update (Sunday, 22.52): thanks to Mark Nanos for these useful comments:
I would like to bring to your attention that the view you express [above], while widely shared, is precisely what my work on both Galatians in Irony of Galatians and my essay on the Antioch Incident in the edited vol. Galatians Debate and essay in Porter's vol. Paul and his opponents on the Jer. meeting seek to challenge. I like Fredriksen's essay too, and recommend it, but I do disagree on some points, one to discuss here.

I don't believe these texts support that there was (at Jer. meeting or Antioch from Galatians data, or in Galatia) this kind of judaizing from forces with the Christ-believing Judaism at work, arising later or not, but rather normal Jewish communal forces for conformity. These forces would likely have been at work from the start, although no doubt the case in Antioch is a later example of capitulating to this pressure that Paul can use to teach the Galatians. I offer several reasons for my views in these works; you might want esp. to see the Antioch essay in Debate.

I don't think the Gentiles were compelled to be circ. from before Paul; it was what made these Jewish groups suspect from the beginning. Otherwise they conformed to the common Judaism denominators (here I am supportive of the basic category Sanders seeks to establish; actually, it is an important element in my logic for identifying what makes the Christ-groups different but still falling within common Judaism, at least for Paul's groups, albeit at the boundaries, where controversy is stirred, and punishment exercised). In this policy alteration they argued that they still conformed, but made the change because of the force of God's hand which made clear that the end of the ages had dawned, when those from outside of Israel would join Israel in worship of the One God. Other Jewish (not-Christ-believing) groups, they contended, remained hitched to this-age terms for identifying these Gentiles turning to the One God when they demanded that they become members of Israel (the only place for righteous ones in the present age).

I do not deny that there were likely some Christ-believing Jewish groups who upheld proselyte conversion for non-Jews (as in Jervell's mighty-minority of early Acts 15), but I do not believe that Galatians is evidence of that case, or its example from Antioch.

The major difference I want to bring to your attention here is that your view (the common one, in this case) posits a difference between James and others of the so-called Jewish Christianity and Pauline Christianity that I do not see that the text of Galatians supports. I recognize that this was not what you were discussing, but thought you might like to know where an important element of your construction is under challenge. I hope eventually to do so in a more clearly defined big-project way.
I hope to comment on this in due course.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Context and Nuance in Jesus' Sayings

One of the reasons I am sceptical about the laudable aim to recover the sayings of Jesus, and to use a sayings itinerary in reconstructions of the historical Jesus, is a point nicely articulated by E. P. Sanders:
Ignorance of the precise context in which sayings were formulated often prevents the recovery of precision and nuance in interpreting Jesus’ teaching. Meaning is determined by context, and sayings whose context is unknown cannot be pressed too hard in the quest of original meaning. Often we shall have to remain content with a more general understanding than we might wish. (E. P. Sanders and M. Davies, Studying the Synoptic Gospels (London: SCM; Philadelphia: Trinity Press International 1989): 188).
Only a moment's reflection confirms to us the truth of this observation. Even in the contemporary world, we are all aware of the problem of sayings and their context. “I was quoted out of context!” I found myself saying something like that after one of the first pieces of television I was involved with, back in 1999, when I saw myself saying something that had a quite different meaning because of the fresh context in which it was placed (used to endorse something Hyam Maccoby had just said, with which I did not in fact agree).

And I am not sure that we consider sufficiently the problem of nuance. We have all heard ourselves quoted by others in such a way that our meaning is subtly changed. "But I didn't say it like that! That's not what I meant."

When discussing Jesus' sayings with students, I like to draw attention to a couple of analogies, one contemporary and one ancient. The ancient one is Paul. We actually have at least seven of Paul's own writings, and yet his meaning is debated more than ever. If we can't work out to the satisfaction of all what Paul's view of the Law was, how likely are we to be able to pick up particular nuances in Jesus' teaching about the kingdom? The modern one is Richard Nixon. One of the reasons that Nixon, in the end, had to resign after the Watergate crisis was that he had followed Lyndon Johnson's practice of recording Oval Room conversations. The Nixon tapes are a fascinating, revealing aid to Nixon's biographer. Alas, we do not have the Jesus tapes, and much as we might wish we did, that desire should not encourage us to behave as if we do.

Prophetisch-messianische Provokateure der Pax Romana

This from James Spinti at Eisenbrauns:
Eisenbrauns is pleased to announce the availability of the following

From Eisenbrauns' distribution partner Academic Press Fribourg, in the NTOA series:

Prophetisch-messianische Provokateure der Pax Romana: Jesus von Nazaret und andere Storenfriede im Konflikt mit dem Romischen Reich
by Christoph Riedo-Emmenegger

Novum Testamentum et Orbis Antiquus - NTOA 56
Academic Press Fribourg, Cloth. German.
ISBN: 372781540X
Your Price: $84.00

When Prophecy Became Passion

I have had a few requests for a copy of the Swan Lecture I gave at the Nebraska Wesleyan University a fortnight ago (blog entry here) so I am making it available temporarily here (MS Word format):

When Prophecy Became Passion: The Death of Jesus and the Birth of the Gospels

A copy of the handout is also available. The lecture is a revision of a piece that I gave earlier in a different format, as the Elizabeth Luce Moore Lecture on Christian Studies, Wellesley College, Boston, March 2003. Now I am going to put it out to pasture for a bit, in the hope that I will eventually expand it into a book.

Update (23:07): PDF version of the paper; PDF version of the handout.

Electronic Critical Edition of 1 Clement

On ITSEE news from the University of Birmingham comes this important announcement:
Aaron W. Neill has completed his electronic critical edition of Clement's First Epistle in Syriac, Latin and Greek which he produced as his thesis for his MA in Editing Texts in Religion at the University of Birmingham. The contents page is found here.
And just to give it a nice big link in bold:

An Electronic Critical Edition of the Syriac Version of Clement's Epistle to the Corinthians
Aaron Neill

I was in Birmingham while Aaron was working on this project, which was supervised by David Parker. Congratulations, Aaron, on this great contribution to scholarship.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Malina and Pilch Shine A Brilliant New Light on the World of Paul

This press release arrived today from Fortress. Several of us are already familiar with the book because of Loren Rosson's "heads up" (as they say here) a few weeks ago (see Social Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul on The Busybody)

MINNEAPOLIS (March 6, 2006)— Fortress Press is happy to announce the release of Social-Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul. This latest addition to the Fortress Social-Science Commentaries on New Testament writings illuminates the values, perceptions, and social codes of the Mediterranean culture that shaped Paul and his interactions —both harmonious and conflicted — with others. Authors Bruce J. Malina and John J. Pilch add new dimensions to our understanding of the apostle as a social change agent, his coworkers as innovators, and his gospel as an assertion of the honor of the God of Israel.

"If you are tired of reading the same 'new' book on Paul over and over, this commentary on the letters of Paul is the place to go next. In addition to traditional material on rhetoric and background, this social-scientific commentary brings to the fore necessary, significant and enlightening ways of understanding the social role of Paul and his social dynamics with the churches he founded. In this it is unique; it is the only comprehensive social-science reading of Paul. The reading scenarios at the end are themselves worth the price of this book."
Jerome Neyrey, University of Notre Dame

"This is not the typical introspective, individualistic Paul of Western theology. Rather Malina and Pilch reveal Paul as a thoroughgoing Mediterranean person, functioning as a change agent among Israelites living in minority communities around the Greco-Roman world. Pauline theology will never look the same again."
Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Lewis and Clark College

Bruce J. Malina is Professor of New Testament at Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska. He has written many books, including The Social World of Jesus and the Gospels (1996), and The Social Gospel of Jesus (Fortress Press, 2000). He is also co-author of Social-Science Commentary on the Gospel of John (Fortress Press, 1998) and Social Science Commentary on the Book of Revelation (Fortress Press, 2000). He is co-editor of The Social Setting of Jesus and the Gospels (Fortress Press, 2001).

John J. Pilch is Professor of Biblical Studies at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. His works include Healing in the New Testament (Fortress Press, 2000) and Social-Science Commentary on the Book of Revelation (with Bruce J. Malina; Fortress Press, 2000).

Format: Paperback 448 pages 6 X 9 inches

Item No: 0800636406

Price: $27.00

Publisher: Fortress Press

To order Social-Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul call Fortress Press at 1-800-328-4648 or visit the web site at To request review copies (for media) or exam copies (for potential classroom use) please call 1-800-426-0115 ext. 234 or e-mail For speaking engagements and interviews call Bob Todd at 612-330-3234 or e-mail

Friday, March 03, 2006

Jesus on Trial -- What Really Happened

This is in from Fortress Press:
Jesus on Trial—What Really Happened

MINNEAPOLIS (February 28, 2006)— How did Jesus, a much-loved and highly respected Jewish teacher, get sentenced to death as a criminal? The questions of students and scholars about the actual circumstances, legal situation, and subsequent development of the Passion Narratives are here answered in Sloyan's second edition of this reliable resource, first published by Fortress Press in 1973. This second edition includes additional text, updated bibliography and notes, and a new preface.

“I am convinced that a serious and dispassionate inquiry into the trial of Jesus from the Gospels and contemporary sources is capable of doing something—however little—to improve the climate of Christian-Jewish discourse. This is true if only because so much that has been written on the trial that is harmful to good relations is demonstrably false.”

—from Chapter 1

“This new edition of Sloyan’s classic study offers a significant contribution to historical Jesus research and to ongoing efforts at improving the climate of contemporary Christian-Jewish relations. His exegetical expertise and knowledge of extra-biblical sources are matched by a dispassionate commitment to inquiry that refuses to settle for convenient solutions or to claim more than the evidence will allow. . . . Taking issue with many recent studies on the execution of Jesus, Sloyan demonstrates an exemplary devotion to critical responsibility, which, in the long run, will prove more satisfying than the ‘quick fix ’suggestions that have been proffered.”
Mark Allan Powell, Professor of New Testament, Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, OH

"Unraveling theological and historical strands in the sources of the Gospel narratives, Sloyan seeks to disclose the social and political realities of the trial of Jesus. Let a new generation of Christian and Jewish interpreters take notice!"
David L. Tiede, Augsburg College

Gerard S. Sloyan is Professor Emeritus of Religion at Temple University and Visiting Professor of Religion and Religious Education at Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. He is the author of numerous books, including The Crucifixion of Jesus (Fortress Press, 1995); Why Jesus Died (Fortress Press, 2004); and Preaching from the Lectionary: An Exegetical Commentary with CD-ROM (Fortress Press, 2004).

Format: Paperback 168 pages 5.5 x 8.5 inches

Item No: 0800638298

Price: $18.00

Publisher: Fortress Press

To order Jesus on Trial call Fortress Press at 1-800-328-4648 or visit the web site at To request review copies (for media) or exam copies (for potential classroom use) please call 1-800-426-0115 ext. 234 or e-mail For speaking engagements and interviews call Bob Todd at 612-330-3234 or e-mail

Rivals of Jesus

Thanks to Eric Meyers, my colleague in the Dept of Religion here, for this interesting notice. The programme features Prof. Meyers and no doubt other academics in the area:

Morningstar Entertainment invites you to watch the world premiere of "Rivals of Jesus" Wednesday, March 1st at 7:00pm PST. The encore presentations will be as follows:

Wednesday, March 1st at 10:00pm PST
Sunday, March 5th at 11:00am PST
Wednesday, March 8th at 3:00pm PST

Times may vary from coast to coast. Note that the program will be listed as "Science of the Bible: Rivals of Jesus".
It is in National Geographic's Science of the Bible series.

There are more details on the this postcard.

Biblical Studies Carnival -- and its value

The next Biblical Studies Carnival is posted at Ricoblog:

Biblical Studies Carnival III

I'd like to add a word of huge appreciation to Tyler Williams for getting this whole show on the road. For me, these carnivals have come at just the right time. The massive, healthy and to-be-encouraged expansion of the blogosphere in our area, as in every other area, makes it impossible to engage with all the blogs one would like to engage with. I remember a time when reading the biblioblogosphere was a matter of looking at Paleojudaica, Hypotyposeis and a handful of others. On the whole, where you wanted to reference or engage with a given post, you had time to do so. Not so now. I struggle to read everything in my blogroll and I can only read a limited number of posts with any attention. Indeed, I suppose that my own blog has changed substantially over the last 12 months from one in which I tried to reference everything on-line in the area that interested me to something much more limited. And to be honest, I am pretty happy with that. Every day I think, "Oh, I must blog that", and subsequently discover that someone else has already done it. Well and good. More time for me to focus on other things here.

That is to say that there is a problem with the current blog scene in Biblical Studies. The growing number of great blogs and interesting posts makes it far more likely that one can miss some gems. The Carnival steps in to help us here, and month by month isolates a few key posts of interest. I, for one, am most grateful to those who are taking on the task of doing this.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Did Jesus have a house in Capernaum?

I've always been intrigued with this verse in Mark, as suggesting that Jesus may have had a house in Capernaum:
Mark 2.15: καὶ γίνεται κατακεῖσθαι αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ αὐτοῦ καὶ πολλοὶ τελῶναι καὶ ἁμαρτωλοὶ συνανέκειντο τῷ Ἰησοῦ καὶ τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ ἦσαν γὰρ πολλοὶ καὶ ἠκολούθουν αὐτῷ

And it happened that he was reclining in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who were following him . . .
This may be an example of the criterion I was recently discussing, accidental information, or material given away in passing, where a piece of data (here: Jesus had a house in Capernaum) is assumed and not narrated. However, there is another way to take the verse. Is Mark intending the reader to take the αὐτοῦ (his) with reference to Levi, who has just been called to follow Jesus? This is the way that most commentators across the centuries have taken it, but I suspect that this is under the influence of Luke, who makes this a great party in Levi's house (Luke 5.29). Incidentally, I can't help wondering how Levi had the resources to finance this big party if he had just left everything (Luke 5.28); perhaps it was long last big bash with his old mates before setting off on the road with Jesus; or perhaps by "everything", Luke means his career and his means of earning a living (cf. the same pattern in the Zacchaeus story in Luke 19.1-10, where the tax-collector is called, and Jesus invites himself to tea).

But Mark's text encourages the reader to imagine Jesus hosting the party at his own place in Capernaum. After all, he has just asked Levi to follow him (Mark 2.14) and from that point onwards, Levi is absorbed into the anonmymous following disciples group in Mark, not even listed as one of the twelve in Mark 3.13-19. Mark 2.15-18 is a new pericope in Mark, and it is probably Mark himself who has bolted this pericope onto the Call of Levi in 2.13-14, in which case he may well have inherited this tradition about Jesus partying in his house without a link with the Levi tradition.

I am not sure why we should be surprised at the note that Jesus may have had a house in Capernaum. After all, Capernaum does seem to be the hub of his mission in Galilee. Perhaps we allow ourselves to be seduced by the saying in Matt. 8.20 // Luke 9.58, "Foxes have their holes and the birds of the air have their nests . . ." But even if Jesus said that, we don't know when he said it, and it could reflect a later, itinerant stage of his mission.

If Jesus the craftsman had a career in Capernaum, perhaps this is how he got to know those later to become his disciples.

If Mark 2.1-12 also depicts Jesus at his house (2.1, ἐν οἴκῳ, "at home"), perhaps that is why he says "Child, your sins are forgiven" -- they've just dug a big hole through the roof of Jesus' house and he's going to have to get up there later on to mend it.